Newsom ran through the state’s dismal coronavirus numbers, warning that, “If these trends continue we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action. If these trends continue, the potential for a stay-at-home order for those areas in the Purple…more in line with the stay-at-home order that folks were familiar with at the beginning of the year.”
With Monday’s updates, over 99% of California’s population was in the Purple, or most severe, tier of Newsom’s reopening order.
In terms of the timing of the orders, “Those are being assessed in real time,” said Newsom, before stressing should not think in terms of weeks, but days.
As to what threshold could trigger further action, “We are looking at intensive care capacity as the trigger for further action,” California Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
The governor went through projections that indicated the number of COVID patients in California’s hospitals could double or triple in the next month. Even more frightening, he indicated that state models show that California ICUs will be overwhelmed. In Los Angeles, that tipping point is projected to come in mid- to late December. (See chart.)
“This is in absence of improved…efforts,” stressed Newsom. He noted that Californians could still “bend the curve” with their actions.
There has been an 89% increase in hospitalizations over the past 14 days. Newsom said projections are, without any further interventions, that ICU patients will jump up 76% over the next two weeks.
There were 380 newly hospitalized patients reported Monday for a total of 8,578. That’s a rise of 4.4% day over day. Along with the 4%-plus daily rises last week, the result makes the state’s hospitalization graph appear nearly vertical.
A number of hospitals, said Ghlay, had already begun making decisions to cancel elective procedures. He said the Central Valley, parts of Southern California may be among them.
There were 14,034 new cases reported on Monday. The seven-day average of daily COVID infections is north of 14,000. For comparison, the seven-day average during summer coronavirus peak period was 9,881.
Newsom said the number of daily tests delivered in the state continues to increase, which is good news. Over the weekend, testing was “north of 223,000 tests per day,” he said. The bad news is that, even as tests have risen, the state’s positivity rate has as well.
California recorded a 6.2% positivity rate over the past 14 days. That the rate of positivity is growing even as the number of tests is, as well, is concerning. It means that there is a larger pool of daily COVID-19 infections each day not being discovered.
There were 20 new deaths reported in California on Monday for a total of 19,141.
“The high case rates that we have seen in the past few days have not even begun to impact hospitals yet,” said Ghaly.
“We anticipate, given Thanksgiving gatherings, that we will see another surge in cases,” said Newsom.
Dr. Anthony Fauci offered his own take over the weekend on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying as the result of Thanksgiving gatherings and travel, “We expect unfortunately, as we go into the next couple of weeks into December, that we might see a surge superimposed on top of the surge that we’re already in.”
“The projected rate of increase” due to those actions and others, said Newsom, is unlike anything the state has ever seen.
Given that, “Everything is on the table” in terms of restrictions, said Ghaly.
The governor said his office has been in conversation with local health officers about how to be more “surgical” with a new stay-at-home order based on the past seven months’ experience.
Unfortunately, “Some of the tools in the tool kit that were available to us early in the summer are not available to us now,” said Newsom, citing mutual aid (hospitals helping each other with capacity) and financial aid from the federal government as levers that are now unavailable.
The governor then announced a series of actions meant to help small businesses, including a three-month stay on state tax due dates, loans and grants.
He also previewed a potential light at the end of the tunnel saying, “We are expecting 327,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine in the next few weeks. That’s California’s portion of the first wave of the vaccine.”
The governor said detailed plans for Phase 1 distribution of the vaccine will be out “this week.”
“We’ll be seeing a lot more of you this week,” said the governor.
Watch Newsom’s Monday presentation below.